Oral cancer tends to start out small, but this uncontrolled cell growth can be life-threatening if allowed to continue to grow and manifest itself. Oral cancer can affect any part of your mouth or sinus area, including your throat, lips, cheeks, and tongue. Often it starts out as a sore that doesn’t go away, much like an ulcer or canker sore. Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer. Here’s what you should know about the disease!
Signs and Symptoms
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of oral cancer so that you can visit your doctor or dentist if you notice any of the following:
– A sore in the mouth that doesn’t go away.
– Swelling or lumps inside the mouth (including lips or gums).
– White or red patches in the mouth.
– Bleeding from the mouth without a cause.
– Numbness or pain around mouth, face, or neck.
– Difficulty moving your jaw—this may include trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing.
– Bad breath.
– Weight loss.
While mouth sores are the most common symptom, there are other symptoms you should know, including a change in voice, sore throat, or ear pain. This is why it’s always important to visit your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms!
You can decrease your risk of getting oral cancer by adjusting your lifestyle. The biggest influential risk factors including smoking or using tobacco products, but did you know that frequent drinkers of alcohol increase their risk of oral cancer by more than six times? The risk increases if you smoke along with drink alcohol frequently. Men are also twice as likely as women to get oral cancer.
Risk factors also include having a family history of cancer or oral cancer, extreme sun exposure, and even human papilloma virus (HPV) may increase your risk for certain cancers. It’s also important to eat well: a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits as opposed to one heavy in meat and processed foods could help prevent cancer!
What Can You Do?
Be knowledgeable about oral cancer. Know what the signs and symptoms are so that you can recognize them if they happen to you and visit your doctor or dentist. If oral cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be taken. Regular checkups with your dentist can help to ensure your mouth is healthy, and always talk with your dentist about any symptoms you’re experiencing. You can also manage any risk factors you have that could lead to oral cancer, such as using tobacco products, drinking alcohol often, or exposure to the sun.
Taking the best care of yourself includes knowing what to look out for when it comes to certain diseases, including oral cancer. Over 25% of people who get oral cancer don’t smoke and drink infrequently. Know the signs and symptoms. Manage your risk factors. Visit your dentist regularly. Treatment for oral cancer is most successful when it’s detected early and can save your life!